Jan 10, 2011 6:30am
Europe '74 Notebook
"Barbarians in Europe"
Soon after I first posted my Europe '72 notes last spring, I started working on reviewing the European tour of 1974. I thought that after sharing my impressions of the beautiful music and superb performances from 1972, the edgy vibe of the '74 tour would be a relevant contrast. Due to the rather dark nature of the music and the extremely inconsistent quality of the performances, reviewing these shows proved to be a very difficult underaking.
Although the set lists of the twenty-two Europe 1972 shows were quite repetitive, the quality of the performances were so high and the music so aesthetically beautiful that it was easy listening to each show repetitively and in succession. This was not so with the seven performances on the Europe '74 tour. Several times I was forced to abandon this project. I just couldn't stick with the music for long enough to get any traction. Shows like Munich (9/14/74) and Paris (9/20/74) are so poorly played at times that I found it rather challenging to listen to them in their entirety.
Over the past several months, I have made no attempt to camouflage my disdain for the performances of this tour. While several respected reviewers here have continued to tout some of these performances and segments of others, I have largely dismissed almost all of the music that was performed on the tour. I finally struggled through reviewing the entire twelve day run of shows, compelled to complete this endevour in spite of the poor quality of a few performances, and the inconsistancy of several others.
And while I must concede that some truly compelling music was performed during the Europe '74 tour, my mind remains largely unchanged; that with the exception of a few shows, and brief segments of others, the quality of these performances was very inconsistent at best, and often rather poor. Overall, the shows from this tour are not even close to the quality of the performances from May-June of the year!
"Is the Grateful Dead going to die?" San Fransisco Chronicle
Much has been documented in several books about the state of the band when they undertook the tour. While the band was in a good place in so many ways during their 1972 European excursion, just the opposite seems to be true for that during the '74 tour. The logistics and costs of transporting 38 tons of equipment was taking toll on the band (financial and otherwise), as was playing in larger venues. Drug consumption (the wrong kind) was out of hand and this all lead to infighting between the band members, management and especially with a large number of ingracious crew members the band had grown tiresome of. Also, he band had not performed in over a month. They were rusty and it shows in their music.
"...the psychic atmosphere was beginning to cloud up with the emergence of cocaine as the drug of choice among the crew, generating an 'us against the world' mindset." Phil Lesh
The Grateful Dead were not in a good frame of mind when they arrived in London in September of 1974, and things quickly deteriorated, in no small part due to a rather sketchy promoter named Tom Salter. He made massive quantities of drugs available to the band and he and his ex-con crew leader provided a rather unsavory environment that seemed to cast a pall of darkness on the band prior to their first Alexandra Palace performance.
"And the cocaine frenzy has escalated well past even California-style excess. It's beginning to spiral, spinning faster and faster, fueled by jet lag and monster lines of cocaine." Rock Scully
I wish that I could say that this project turned out to be rewarding. After spending two months immersed in the music from Europe '72, I came away with a genuine appreciation for that tour. In the case of the '74 tour, it was more like work! With the exception of the Dijon performance (9/18/74), long one of my favorite shows of the year, there really was little reward. Even the best performance at the Alexandra Palace (9/10/74) was not on par with premier shows of 1974, in spite of the fact that much of the music was commercially released on Dick's Picks #7.
Mostly I found mediocrity and inconsistency. Several shows are clearly sub-par performances that contain compelling segments and perhaps brief passages of brilliance. The third Ally Pally show (9/11/74) is one such example and includes an interesting performance of Eyes of the World that segues out of a Seastones passage. The final show in Paris (9/21/74) includes a facinating performance of Playin' in the Band that also morphs out a Ned and Phil segment. And the first performance in London (9/9/74), an abreviated show due to equipment problems, contains a worthy Truckin' Jam. I'm not a fan of the Phil and Ned performances, however it's notable that a couple of these are among the best of the Seastones mini-sets, particularly with Jerry contributing on 9/11 and 9/21.
But even at their best, and in spite of overall excellent sound quality, these shows fall well short of the best performances of 1974. Sadly the vibe is entirely different from the beautiful shows the band performed in May and June of the year. Most noteably the Europe '74 shows lack the extended thematic jamming that make those early summer shows so exciting!
This darkness is unmistakeble in the music performed on the '74 tour of Europe and the excessive use of cocaine and other drugs most certainly had a detrimental effect on the bands musicianship and energy level during the subsequent concerts. The music is perhaps the antithesis of Europe '72. That's not to say that the tour was without a couple fine performances and several moments of true brilliance. But overall, this tour has to be seen for what it is: inconsistently played, largely unimaginative, unexciting performances, several of which are of particularly poor quality.
"When your brain crackles and your eyeballs burst out of their sockets, it's usually a sign that you're overdoing it just a wee bit." Rock Scully
With two exceptions: The performance in Dijon on 9/18 is a masterpiece of a show. The first-set is among the very best the band has ever performed. And the second show in London on 9/10 is also fine performance, it's Dark Star among the best of the year.
Other performances are of varying caliber: Both 9/11 and 9/21 are inconsistently played, however each contain very compelling jam segments that include Ned Lagin on electric piano.
The balance of the shows on this tour are sub-par: The abreviated set on 9/10 contains a somewhat interesting Truckin' Jam. However, both 9/14 and 9/20 are among the poorest performances of the year.
This was a challenging project. I'm sharing my notes in the hopes that you will also contribute your impressions and observations on these performances. Please feel free to disagree with any of my opinions on the music, sources, etc. And please correct my errors, likely there a many...
"Wait till you see the Ally-Pally lads! Blow your bloody little hippie minds, it will!" Tom Salter
9/9/74 Alexandra Palace - London, EN
Bertha, Promised Land, It Must Have Been The Roses, Jack Straw, Scarlet Begonias, Mexicali Blues, Row Jimmy, Playin' In The Band, Deal, El Paso, Ship of Fools, Tennessee Jed, Truckin'-> Jam -> Wharf Rat-> Uncle John's Band, Johnny B. Goode E: U.S. Blues E: One More Saturday Night
Best Source: DP #7/sirmick.fix-32642.97013.flac16
Sound Quality: A+/A
Score: 88 pts
(Sound quality supersedes the quality of this performance. The MR sourced Sirmick remasters provide fine sound quality)
Official Release: Scarlet, Mexicali, Row Jimmy, Truckin' > Wood Green Jam > Wharf Rat are on DP #7
Comments: Single set due to late start
This is a mailed in show that borders on being a complete train wreck. There is really very little to redeem this performance. The rendition of Scarlet Begonias (included in DP #7) is certainly nothing special. The highlight of the set, a somewhat unique Truckin' > Jam, lacks intensity and is fairly average for the period. At least twice during the abreviated performance, Weir feels compelled to apologize to the audience for the late start. He attributes the delay to equipment problems (generator?), but given the state of mind of the band, excessive drug use (even for the Grateful Dead), and a ritual stash burning prior to the show, it's pretty obvious that there is more going on here than some qwipment issues. In an obvious attempt to compensate for the poor performance, the band peforms a double encore, but it can't save this show. (88 pts)http://www.archive.org/details/gd1974-09-09.sbd.dp7-outtakes.sirmick.fix-32642.97013.flac16http://www.archive.org/details/gd74-09-09.sbd.sly.12846.sbeok.shnf
9/10/74 Alexandra Palace - London, EN
I) Around & Around, Mississippi Half Step, Beat It On Down The Line, Peggy-O, Tennessee Jed, Black Throated Wind, China Cat Sunflower-> I Know You Rider, Loser, Black Peter, Weather Report Suite Prelude-> Weather Report Suite Part 1-> Let It Grow-> Stella Blue
II) Phil & Ned*, Me & My Uncle, Dire Wolf, Not Fade Away, Ramble On Rose, Big River, Dark Star-> Morning Dew, Sugar Magnolia E: U.S. Blues
Best Source: DP #7/sbd.samaritano.18806.sbeok.shnf
Sound Quality: A+/A+
Score: 96 pts
(The vault sourced samaritano soundboard is excellent, though there are a couple of cuts and a few dropouts.)
Official Release: Half-Step, Black Throated Wind, WRS > Stella Blue, Me And My Uncle, Not Fade Away, Dark Star > Spam Jam > Morning Dew, U.S. Blues are on DP #7
The band rallies on this night for an excellent performance, easily the best of the three-night Alexandra Palace run and likely the second best show of the tour. The China/Rider segue is well played, as is a nice performance of WRS (DP #7). Also noteworthy is a fantastic stand alone NFA. The highlight of the show of course being an excellent Dark Star > Morning Dew. The 31 minute Dark Star (one of only six performed in 1974) moves along at a steady pace with some nice jazzy interplay between Jerry and Phil during the pre-verse segment and contains a brief but enthralling theme exploration midway through. While one of the better Dark Stars of '74, it loses some momentum after the verse, breaking down into rather uncohesive dissonance. Exciting perhaps, but the post verse passage doesn't match the intensity of the very best performances of the song during the year (such as 2/24/74). The movement titled "Spam Jam" is somewhat disapointing compared the better thematic jams of 1974, however the Morning Dew concluding the suite is excellent. Overall it's a fine show, but it is not on par with the very best performances of 1974. (96 pts)http://www.archive.org/details/gd74-09-10.sbd.samaritano.18806.sbeok.shnf
9/11/74 Alexandra Palace - London, EN
I) Scarlet Begonias, Mexicali Blues, Brown Eyed Women, Beat It On Down The Line, Sugaree, Jack Straw, Row Jimmy, Me And Bobby McGee, Tennessee Jed, Big River, It Must Have Been The Roses, Playin' In The Band
II) Phil & Ned-> Jam-> Eyes Of The World-> Jam-> Wharf Rat-> Space
III) Around And Around, Ship Of Fools, Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad, Sugar Magnolia E: U.S. Blues
Best Source: DP #7/sbd.unknown.4647.shnf?
Sound Quality: A+/A
Score: 94 pts
(Numerous audience and soundboard recordings circulate from this performance, as well as a possible Candelario mixed matrix possibly sourced from Dick's Picks? The Gans MR sourced unknown.4647.shnf might be the best of these.)
Comments: Seastones (Jerry sitting in). Ned Lagin on electric piano during 2nd set. Mickey's 31st birthday.
Official Release: Brown Eyed Women, BIODTL, Jack Straw, tennessee Jed, Big River, Playing In The Band are on DP #7
Although not quite as good as the preceeding night, the band is able to hold it together for another performance. Highlights of the first set include an extended show opening Scarlet Begonias that is packed with some great jamming, and a set closing 23 minute performance of Playing in the Band filled with jazzy excursions and dynamic interplay (DP #7). I'm not going to go into the Phil and Ned segment (I just don't have the patience for these), but this is one of the better ones (with Jerry contributing for a portion), if that's your kind of thing. Ned continues to sit in for a rather uniquely jammed out rendition of Eyes of the World. Lagin contributes to this one significantly at times and it's rather cool hearing the twin keyboard sound and some interesting interplay with both Jerry and Phil. It's an excellent rendition, in spite of some less than stellar vocals, featuring a nice Weir/Lesh duet towards its conclusion. Also noteworthy is the jazzy outro jam of this suite making for a rather interesting transition into Wharf Rat. (94 pts)http://www.archive.org/details/gd1974-09-11.sbd.unknown.4647.shnf
"From London they went to Munich and things got even Darker." Dennis McNally
9/14/74 Olympia Halle - Munich, DE
I) Bertha, Me & My Uncle, Deal, Jack Straw, Scarlet Begonias, Promised Land, Loser, El Paso, Row Jimmy, Weather Report Suite Prelude-> Weather Report Suite Part 1-> Let It Grow, Tennessee Jed, Around & Around
II) Phil & Ned*, Big River, Sugaree, Mexicali Blues, Mississippi Half Step-> It Must Have Been The Roses, Truckin'-> Wharf Rat-> Sugar Magnolia, Eyes Of The World-> One More Saturday Night E: U.S. Blues
Best Source: sbd.miller.30653.sbeok.flacf/28353.sbeok.flac16 (second set)
Sound Quality: B+/A
Score: 87 pts
(Part of the first set circulates only as a rather noisy audience recording. From about midway through Scarlet Begonias is a lively and excellent quality MR sourced Charlie Miller soundboard.)
Signs that all is not well in Denmark, or in this case Munich appear. Historically the band has played tight, focused shows of high intensity in Germany. Not this one! The quality of this performance is clearly well below the previous two shows in London, both in intensity and particularly in execution. Keiths keyboard play is noticably off, and during the first set the band appears to be just going through the motions. I find this music rather difficult to listen to. Both Scarlet Begonias and the WRS are poorly played. The second set is no better. Truckin' sounds just aweful, even the outro jam is disapointing. And while the band tries to pull things together for a Mind Left Body Jam, it's a half-hearted attempt that never really gets off the ground. The band must have been cognicent of how poorly they were playing. Valiantly they regroup for a triple encore; the 14 minute high-energy performance of Eyes of the World is an improvement, as is a very good U.S. Blues, but it's not enough to save this stinker! (87 pts) http://www.archive.org/details/gd74-09-14.sbd.miller.30653.sbeok.flacfhttp://www.archive.org/details/gd1974-09-14.28353.sbeok.flac16
9/18/74 Parc des Expositions - Dijon, FR
I) Uncle John's Band > Jam, Jack Straw, Friend Of The Devil, Black Throated Wind, Scarlet Begonias, Mexicali Blues, Row Jimmy, Beat It On Down The Line, Deal, The Race is On, To Lay Me Down, Playin' In The Band
II) Phil & Ned*, Loose Lucy, Big River, Peggy-O, Me & My Uncle, Eyes Of The World > China Doll > He's Gone > Truckin' > Drums > Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks) Jam > Ship Of Fools, Johnny B. Goode E: U.S. Blues
Best Source: sbd.miller.20675.shnf
Sound Quality: A+/A
Score: 99 pts
(Sourced from Pre-FM GDH Production Discs, the sound quality of the Charlie Miller remaster is excellent!)
Comments: First Caution Jam since 1969, First FOTD since 1972. Seastones.
Featuring what has to be considered among the very best first sets ever performed by the band, Dijon is clearly THE show of the tour. It's a brilliant performance, among the very best shows of 1974. Several songs are candidates for best ever renditions; most notably the extraordinarily jammed out show opener of Uncle Johns Band and the terrific stand-alone Scarlet Begonias. Playin' in the Band is also exceptionally well played. The solid second set includes a dynamite performance of Eyes of the World and a unique jam suite featuring the first Caution Jam performed since early 1969. This performance is the creme de la creme of the tour! (99 pts) http://www.archive.org/details/gd1974-09-18.sbd.miller.20675.shnf
*An interesting recording of the soundcheck for this performance is worth checking out, Jerry practicing the scales.http://www.archive.org/details/gd1974-09-18.sbd.snchk.miller.32292.sbeok.flac16
9/20/74 Palais Des Sports - Paris, FR
I) Cumberland Blues, Jack Straw, It Must Have Been The Roses, Beat It On Down The Line, Scarlet Begonias, Black Throated Wind, Friend Of The Devil, El Paso, Row Jimmy, Weather Report Suite Prelude-> Weather Report Suite Part 1-> Let It Grow-> Stella Blue, Around & Around
II) China Cat Sunflower, I Know You Rider, Big River, Brown Eyed Women, Greatest Story Ever Told, Brokedown Palace, Truckin', Eyes Of The World, Not Fade Away, Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad, One More Saturday Night E: U.S. Blues
Best Source: sbd.gasperini.5648.sbeok.shnf
Sound Quality: A-
Score: 86 pts
(The only available transfer? a MR AUD/SBD composite is significantly flawed and imperfectly mixed.)
Comments: Brown Eyed Women missing?
Tapers Section: WRS> Stella Blue (9/17/07), Truckin'> Eyes> NFA> GDTRFB> Saturday Night (9/15/08)
A problematic mix and some lackluster musicianship make for some rough sledding on this one. The first set is poorly played. It almost seems like the band already has their bags packed, eager to finish the tour and get home. It's a far cry from their extraordinary performances the last time they were in the city of lights, only two and a half years before this largely mailed in performance. The band again tries to rally for the second set, a choppy and uncohesive performance of Truckin' completely breaking down before preceeding into a lethargic rendition of Eyes of the World that sadly can't redeem this performance. (86 pts)http://www.dead.net/features/tapers-section/september-17-september-23-2007-0http://www.dead.net/features/tapers-section/september-15-september-21-2008http://www.archive.org/details/gd74-09-20.sbd.gasperini.5648.sbeok.shnf
9/21/74 Palais Des Sports - Paris, FR
I) Bertha, Mexicali Blues, Sugaree, Promised Land, Peggy-O, Me & My Uncle, Eyes Of The World-> China Doll
II) Phil & Ned-> Playin' In The Band-> Drums-> Playin' In The Band
III) Row Jimmy, Big River, Ship of Fools, Uncle John's Band, Around & Around, Morning Dew, Sugar Magnolia E: Casey Jones
Best Source: sbd.miller.30654.sbeok.flacf
Sound Quality: A+/A
Score: 91 pts
(The sound quality if the MR sourced Charlie Miller remaster is excellent.)
Taper's Section: Seastones> Playin' (9/17/07)
Comments: Seastones (Jerry sitting in). Ned Lagin sits in for 2nd/3rd sets.
Another somewhat lackluster performance is saved by a few rather compelling passages. An unspectacular first set climaxes with a well played but dark and edgey 17 minute performance of Eyes of the World that features a thrashing Garcia solo and some sinister Lesh ordinance, prior to an eerie segue into China Doll. Not that it's my thing, but the Phil and Ned segment, with participation from Garcia, just might be the best ever Seastones ever performed. The following Playin' in the Band (with Lagin sitting in), is one of the highlights of the tour (in spite of some horrendous vocals by Donna). It's an epic performance of the song, that includes two drum breaks. Ned Lagin sits in for the remainder of the performance that features a 17 minute performance of Morning Dew. Several reviewers that I respect have given this show rather strong reviews. In deference to them I'll give this a score of 91 pts, but I'm thinking this is too generous. (91 pts)http://www.dead.net/features/tapers-section/september-17-september-23-2007-0 http://www.archive.org/details/gd74-09-21.sbd.miller.30654.sbeok.flacf